LOVE LETTER TO THE GREAT LAKES:
I HAVE ALWAYS LIVED CLOSE TO YOU,
I PADDLED IN YOUR SHALLOWS AS A CHILD, DRINKING IN YOUR TASTE.
WAVES CARESSED MY BACK AS I WATCHED SAND ON THE LAKE BED,
PILED INTO TINY RIPPLES & DUNES…IT WAS MAGICAL!
I DREW MAPS & GAMES WITH MY BIG TOE IN WET SAND ON YOUR SHORE
AND SPENT EVERY SUMMER DAY, EVEN SOME WARM NIGHTS NEXT TO YOU.
SOMETIMES AT NIGHT I WATCHED SILENT WAVES OF “GREEN LIGHTNING”
FAR OFF IN THE NORTH, WONDERING “WHAT COULD THAT BE?”
FAR INTO THE DARKNESS I WATCHED WHITE CRESTS OF WAVES ENDLESSLY CREEPING TO SHORE,
SCANNING THE STARRY SKY ABOVE UNTIL MY SLEEPY LIDS CLOSED
I LEARNED TO SAIL…
ACROSS THE WIND ON A CLOSE REACH, HEELING & “HIKING OUT”
TRYING TO STAY LEVEL SO WE COULD SPEED
TACKING & JIBING WE ROUNDED A MARK ON A RACE COURSE,
YOUR WAVES SPARKLING AND TEASING “GO FASTER!”
WIND ON THE STERN, WE FLEW THAT CHUTE LIKE A KITE PULLING US
TOWARD ANTICIPATED VICTORY.
SOMETIMES WE WERE FORTUNATE TO SLEEP CLOSE UNDER THE FOREDECK
FALLING ASLEEP TO YOUR VARIED & CONSTANT LULLABY LAPPING LAPPING
I STORED THOSE MEMORIES LIKE A MOUSE FILLING ITS CHEEKS
WITH CORN & SEEDS FOR A COMING WINTER,
STUFFING THEM INTO PLACES I DIDN’T KNOW I HAD.
NOW CALLED BACK IN TIMES OF STRESS, IF I CLOSE MY EYES…
I CAN WATCH THE SCENE PLAY IN MY HEAD, SEE RIPPLES & SPARKLES.
FEEL MY TOE SCRIBING THE SHORE.
I AM BACK IN THE SHALLOWS, A CHILD…
I AM RUNNING BEFORE THE WIND, LAUGHING…
I AM AT PEACE WITH STARS & THE UNIVERSE ABOVE
AND I WILL FALL ASLEEP TO THE LULLABY LAPPING LAPPING
-Libbet Paullin Terrell
Red Queen Waves
When the Red Queen led Alice
To the chessboard field
Where horses, towers, and men and women
Common, knightly, priestly and royal
Would play their match
(This was after giving an etiquette lesson
And explaining she owned all the ways
So that none were lost without her leave)
She ran pell-mell
The child hanging on tight and trying to keep up
But the scene around them, instead of blurring
Stayed the way it was.
Had they not run that fast, she said,
The world instead
Would push them back
At a pace to make the head swim.
You must move fast to stay in one place.
Evolution, I read, works that way.
All that lives must run, fly, swim,
hide, fight, feed, grow, multiply
To keep pace with a changing world
Or else be swept away
As those in the Red King’s dreams when he wakes.
Alice herself would make a crossing
Playing in the place of the White Queen’s little pawn-princess,
Through an oddly organized train ride,
A wood where names wane,
Meeting those who step out of nursery rhymes–
Two who battle over a ruined rattle and flee a crow
An egg precariously on a wall
Who works words to his own will
Two out of a coat of arms
Vying for a crown that’s not their own
Along with eccentric pieces–
The queens assume different forms
And one white knight bears many inventions–
And two familiarly mad messengers
Until she reaches the farthest space
And ascends to a crown, title and feast
All the while, there is much she must stay ahead of
Before passing through the mirror again,
All the while collecting verses…
Many of those who live in the water
Mammal, mollusc and fish…
In the inland sea near where I live
Sometimes the waves are strong enough
To reflect the Red Queen’s statement for me:
As all the beasts, fishes and molluscs do,
Stride, tread, cling or swim as hard as you are able
To stay in one place;
I butterfly or crawl freestyle
Just enough to keep that pace,
But only in short bursts
Before needing to rest,
Lest I collapse like a bread-and-butter-fly
That has had no cambric tea.
Yet I would often fly to it
As an aspiring snap-dragon-fly to a lamp;
For if I can’t keep a queen’s swimming pace
I go with the flow towards shore,
Leaping in the waves, swaying to and fro
As a rocking-horse-fly moves from branch to branch
(Minding large hidden stones as I go),
Wordlessly curtseying in the waves’ wake
Freely acknowledging the lake’s Majesty.